IPEd Conference 2021: Editing on the Edges

Roly Sussex

Emeritus Professor Roland (Roly) Sussex OAM has been a patron of IPEd since 2012 and a valued speaker at our conferences ever since.

He is an Emeritus Professor of Languages at the University of Queensland (UQ) and has been broadcasting language segments on ABC Radio in Queensland for 24 years (and in South Australia for 20 years). He has chaired the Board of the State Library of Queensland and the Alliance Française of Brisbane, and is currently President of the English Speaking Union (Queensland). 

His podcasts, A Word in Your Ear, are available from the ABC. His most recent book is Word for Today.

Editors as boundary umpires

June is both the bottom of the winter and the middle of the AFL season. So what could be more apposite for IPEd’s 2021 biannual-virtual meeting in Tasmania than a football metaphor? (“Football” is AFL. Any other usage is a faux pas.)

In AFL the boundary umpire has three key tasks: to call when the ball crosses the boundary line and is out of play; to call when the ball crosses the boundary line on the full, resulting in a free kick to the other team; and to put the ball back into play in a strange ritual contortion by throwing it backwards over his shoulder. 

These three roles allow rich metaphorical possibilities for editors operating at the boundaries – make that edges – of English. 

“Ball over the line” is language which is on the edges, but which the editor-umpire judges to be legal. A throw-in will follow as the editor-umpire restarts play by accepting and incorporating the language at issue. 

“Out on the full” is an illegal play, followed by a kick to the other team. Language material is judiciously rejected, followed by either rejection or radical repair. 

But sometimes the boundary is hard to discern. Mud, or a poorly drawn boundary line, make the margin moot. Here the editor-umpire has to exercise superior judgement, inference and interpretation. It is here that we find some of the most intriguing and intractable questions of  language boundaries. 

I shall explore all three scenarios as the ball crosses the boundaries of English. 

Every metaphor has its day, and we should not over-interpret the editor-umpire. But I can imagine splendid and fractious opportunities for editing-umpiring in the role of the field umpire. What is the language congener for “Baaaaaallll!!”?

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Online, 28 to 30 June 2021
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